Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

Why no updates?

Monday, March 27th, 2017


I’ve not updated this blog for a loooong time as I’ve been super-busy over at WCRS.

Check out the WCRS blog to see some of my latest ramblings.

There’s a growing list af articles over at Campaign Magazine too.

Hopefully, I’ll find time to post one of the nutty things I’m up to real soon!



Joint in the Pressup Challenge!

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016

On Jan 1st 2015 I started the pressup challenge. Starting with 1 pressup, I added one for every day of the year. I.e. on day 60, I did 60 pressups that day. It’s finally new year’s eve 2015 and todays total was 365! Here are the final 50…

If you’re interested in joining in for 2016, you can keep count of your pressups with a quick web-app I made:

Classic Pressup Challenge: Add a pressup each day:

Alternative Pressup Challenge: A set number each day:


Darth Vader v Citroen C1 up holder

Sunday, November 29th, 2015


Someone at Citroen is clearly a Start War fan. This is the cup holder on our 2014 Citroen C1.

Apple Maps cars spotted in London

Monday, October 5th, 2015


Look who’s been sniffing out the streets of Soho in London. Hopefully their own maps will do a better job than the pitiful data they bought from TomTom when they first launched in 2012. I’m usually an Apple supporter but even I couldn’t trust it after it gave me one too many destinations in the middle of a lake (yes, this happened twice).


I still find Apple maps unbearable over-simplified. One way streets, traffic data, building locations and of course Street View are all examples that Google gets right. Apple does have the bizarrely hidden yet mind-bendingly impressive Flyover feature though. It’s not in every city yet but if you haven’t checked it out yet.  but find one that does have it and prepare to be impressed.


The real play here is the data that people using your mapping app gives you. Google know when you’re in a shop, when you’re stuck on a slow moving road, when you’re at home and most importantly, when you’re doing any of that while clicking ads, reading emails or using any of their home-grown services.

Apple clearly tried to muscle in on the action in 2012 and bought their way in, with obviously (calamitous) results. Seems they are doing it the right way this time. It’s still a rather murky and devious world of data mining but at least I’ll not be standing in too many lakes.



Tuesday, August 4th, 2015


Saw these mushrooms in a field in Devon. That’s all I have to say about that.

What makes an image popular?

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014


I got very excited about this. An experimental service that aims to predict how popular an image would be if released onto the unsuspecting internet. Without getting too in to the details (as I haven’t got them) it seems the service compares your image to 2.3million Flickr images and makes an educated guess from there. If your image seems similar to a bunch of images that are super-popular, your ranking goes up and vice versa.

I can imagine lots of social media agencies around the world looking rather shifty at this point. Has it revealed the magic of memes? Will Simon Cowell use it to find new pop stars?

As a test, I uploaded two of arguably the most viral images to have hit the internet in recent years, Grumpy Cat and Doge… and a photo of some sausage creatures I made once. What did the ranking scores tell us? Grumpy Cat beats Doge. Oh, and my sausage creatures beat them both and are destined to be the next internet meme. Or not.

To conclude, my highly unscientific test of a mildly unscientific service concludes it’s still not clear how the internet works. Marvellous.

Want to play with the service yourself? Check it out here or read the full research paper: What makes an image popular? by A. Khosla, A. Das Sarma and R. Hamid / International World Wide Web Conference (WWW), 2014

Engine light on? Try better fuel…

Monday, April 21st, 2014


The ‘engine light’ comes on on occasionally on our car (a 2001 BMW 318SE). Sometimes I fix something but curiously, sometimes it goes out on its own. Looking at the manual, you soon realise the light is a catch-all for “there’s something wrong with your engine” and it’s not actually that specific. Luckily, I have some diagnostic kit and can read the error codes. But in this case, the only fault registering was in German (as it’s a BMW) “prüfung kraftstoff-versorgungssystem” and translated into an equally vague “Fuel supply system”. Great.

Recently I needed to fill up with petrol. I decided to fill up with the ‘good fuel’ – the better of the two at the pump at least. 3 days later, the light went out. Interesting. I did a little research and discovered that many cars older than maybe 8-10 years have their engine management set in a time when fuel had slightly different additives and  mixtures. In this case, less ethanol. So your engine’s on-board emissions check is expecting one thing but reading another, even though the engine runs as expected. That’s often enough to cause the engine light to come on.

A little more research dug up a bunch of articles on cheap supermarket fuel being a big culprit. I had a palm/face moment when I remembered I already tried this cheap fuel/expensive fuel test a few years back but the results weren’t clear. Turns out cars are one step ahead and have an in-built sanity check to avoid knee-jerk reactions. They require the car to be run through a certain ‘basic drive cycle‘ before resetting any error codes. In short, you may need to wait a few days or weeks to see that pesky light react.

So, before you spend a bunch of cash on a garage, try filling up with the expensive fuel, give it a few drives and see what happens. And as a rule, definitely avoid supermarket fuel. When you dig a little deeper, you realise forums are awash with that nugget of advice. Good luck!



App of the week: Monument Valley

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Been playing Monument Valley by UsTwo for a day or so and had to make sure everyone knows about it. It’s stunning. Beautifully put together and super clever gameplay. Think adventure puzzler crossed with MC Escher. So many apps try and do that ‘waffly airy music and arty atmosphere’ thing, but Monument Valley does it with ease.

Very few apps make me smaile as I use them. I found myself smiling a lot and gently nodding in appreciation, partly for the attention to detail, partly for the art style and partly for the sheer madness. There are 10 levels, each will many sub-levels and puzzles to solve. Only issue is that it’s over all to soon. But I don’t hold that against it. It’s worth the money and then some.

Download it for iPhone, iPad now. Android coming soon (apparently)

Bonus: If you’re into that kind of app and you haven’t played Little Inferno, you won’t be disappointed either. It’s a bit old now but still in my top 10 list. No spoilers but if you manage to get to the end, it’s amazing.

360º video awesomeness with 6 GoPros

Saturday, April 12th, 2014


This is on of my favourite GoPro rig setups. The results are stunning, baffling and funky in equal measures.

Having worked on a Tim Burton project with the guys at Yellow Bird with bespoke 360º degree cameras and looked at the new wave of consumer 360º rigs like Panono or the Dot camera phone attachment from Kogeto, making your own rig is pretty hardcore.

It does however allow you to do something different, like spherical panoramas. Check out the video below to see what I mean. And don’t forget to check out Jonas Ginter’s page that gives a bit of background to the rig (yes, there is some 3D printing action) and the stitching. Jonas… we salute you, you crazy man…

Google map of 1890’s London

Monday, March 10th, 2014


There are a bunch of really interesting Google Map mashups but this one really caught my attention. Google have teamed up with the Ordnance Survey to allow you to explore old London maps directly within Google Maps. While the infrastructure is pretty much unchanged in central London, the suburbs a really interesting. My house doesn’t even exist (as it was built in the 1930’s) and the local park was a watercress filter bed back then to clean the poo out of Muswell Hills sewage. Its name changed from Dirthouse Woods (nice) to a far more middle-class Cherry Tree Woods.


Similarly, the area around Old Street, now a hive of digital startups, was clearly a very seedy place back then (and arguably still can be if you know where to look). It’s hard to spot a corner without a pub (P.H) or a block without a brewery. Similarly, public urinals are encouragingly numerous too. We could learn a thing or two from that. It’s interesting to think that Old Street was once dominated by a large Vinegar Works. Must have gone well with the cockles on a Friday night.


Can’t help thinking this rather undermines the Ordinance Survey’s side-line in supplying printed maps to adorn people’s toilet walls at home. I’ve bought a few over the years as I’m mildly curious in my local area’s history. Would have expected a ‘Buy this’ button on the Google interface at least. Who isn’t going to take a few screenshots and save a few quid. I guess the ‘partnership’ deal takes this into account to some extent.

Anyway, check out the 1890’s OS Google Maps for yourself.